UFC Fight Night 143 will be the debut card on the new ESPN+ deal. Prelims, including Donald Cerrone vs. Alexander Hernandez, will be available live and free on ESPN starting at 8 PM. Headlining for this cornerstone event in a Champ v. Champ battle between Flyweight champion Henry Cejudo and Bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw. With the entire flyweight division possibly on the brink of being shut down with a Dillashaw win, will the Olympian Cejudo be able to dominate and carry the division on his back? Let’s break this fight down and find out!
(C) Henry “The Messenger” Cejudo (13-2) vs. (C) T.J. Dillashaw (16-3)
Where do I even start with these two? T.J. is on a four-fight win streak, defeating Cody Garbrandt two consecutive times. Once to win back his bantamweight belt, the other to defend it. The lead-up to the fights were memorable enough, but the performances were even crazier. Dillashaw was able to win via KO in the first fight, one in which he was saved by the bell at the end of round one. Cody and T.J. exchanged close shots in the second and T.J. was able to land a clean shot that stiffened and dropped Cody. Ironically, the second fight ended in almost the same fashion. Cody hurt Dillashaw, closed the gap to quickly, shots exchanged inside, T.J. stiffened and dropped Garbrandt for a TKO victory. It was insane!
But Cejudo, well he only beat the fighter many consider the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time. Henry ended Demetrious Johnson’s six-year reign as flyweight champion. Johnson had defended his title eleven consecutive times, beating Cejudo in 2016. Henry wanted his revenge and got it with a split decision victory in August. It wasn’t long before the new flyweight champ called out Dillashaw, or rather the winner of Dillashaw/Garbrandt II. In his post-fight interview, Cejudo made it known that he wanted his next fight to be the winner of the bantamweight championship fight that would happen minutes after his fight. Since Dillashaw won and had expressed interest in fighting Johnson at 125, the UFC announced the contest in December. The fight got moved from Jan 26th to Fight Night 143 on Jan 19th.
Dillashaw has solid wrestling, but nowhere near that of gold medal Olympian Henry Cejudo. T.J. is, however, a far better striker. If T.J. can avoid the takedown, and subsequent top control of Cejudo, the advantage is all Dillashaw. But as we saw in the flyweight fight against Johnson, takedowns are king according to MMA judging, especially late in the round. Also, an interesting note. T.J. Dillashaw is on a four-fight win streak. He has gone on three other four-fight streaks, but he has never won his fifth fight. I am not superstitious, but as Michael Scott says, I am a little-stitious.
✔ PREDICTION: Henry Cejudo
(decision) (RND 1) TKO (00:32 5th fastest in UFC history)
Other Main Card Predictions
✔ Gregor Gillespie-
Sub (RND 2) TKO
✔ Joseph Benavidez-
TKO (RND 3) Decision (29-28×3)
✔ Paige VanZant-
Decision (RND 2) Sub
Karl Roberson- Decision Glover Teixeira (RND 1) Sub
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